RECORDING BUTTERFLIES IN GILBERT WHITE’S GARDEN
END OF SEASON REPORT
In May we reported on our plan to observe and record butterflies in the grounds over the twenty-six weeks from April to September. As we move well into Autumn we provide a report on this first season of our butterfly recording.
The route walked each week is a Butterfly Transect registered with the United Kingdom Butterfly Monitoring Scheme (UKBMS) with the observations contributing towards national records and monitoring. The route starts from the Field Studies Centre and passes through the meadow, Six Quarters, Herb and Wildlife Garden, around the Ewell Field and back through the South side of the meadow to the Field Studies Centre.
This year we recorded more than 1400 observations of 18 species of butterfly. Different species of butterflies have different flight times so new species appeared as others passed on as the Summer progressed. A few species, as expected, displayed two generations over the period.
The earliest appearances were by the Orange Tip and Small Tortoiseshell species. The most common species by some way was the Meadow Brown which thrives well in the meadow. When the sun shines in mid Summer large numbers can be seen on the wing. This year the most prolific weeks for butterflies in the grounds were from mid June and into July; you might just remember the sunshine and temperatures, In one week during this period there was an impressive peak of over 300 observations of 11 species on one transect walk.
The exercise revealed that both Large and Small Skipper butterflies are present in the grounds; both colonies difficult, but possible, to see in the territory around Hercules.
It was encouraging to see what appeared to be a couple of colonies of Small Copper butterflies in the Ewell Field. The Creeping Thistle on the North West boundary provided a particularly attractive site to a variety of butterflies and other pollinators.
Taking a structured approach to butterfly observation has allowed us to record a creditable range of species in the grounds in this first year. Despite several areas of wooded and shady areas there were surprisingly few Speckled Wood recorded although this seemed a successful species in the immediate vicinity. Other species that might have been expected (eg Holly Blue, Brown Argus, Painted Lady) were absent from the formal records although were seen in other areas of the grounds at different times during the period.
It was disappointing not to record the adult form of Brown Hairstreak in the grounds this year. This species is especially difficult to see as they mostly display around the top of Ash trees. Females can be seen nectaring around bramble or laying eggs on Blackthorn in late Summer with sufficient effort. It is encouraging, then, that several eggs have already been seen this Autumn on young blackthorn. This suggests that the colony survives in the grounds this year. There were good sightings of the species at Noar Hill this year too. A more thorough search for eggs on the Blackthorn throughout the grounds will be made in the Winter to protect them while we manage the habitat for the species under the Stewardship Scheme.
Enjoying domestic butterflies this year is largely over but as this is written in early November, there have been several sightings of Red Admiral encouraged by sunshine and the prospect of additional food ahead of hibernation.
Looking ahead, and following the previous survey in 2013, we have recently received a detailed botanical survey of the meadow and park which includes recommendations for additional planting to improve bio-diversity with more native species. This should, in time, be good for wider bio-diversity including for butterflies and other invertebrates.
Thanks are due to the volunteers who contributed their share of observations throughout the Spring and Summer and helping to make this important step towards the Modern Natural History of Selborne.
We’re already looking forward to next April and the start of a new recording year. If you would like to learn more about this and other recording activity, or contribute towards the observations please contact the Field Studies Centre.